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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Meeting of the Parliament 08 May 2018

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Topical Question Time, Scottish National Investment Bank, Budget Process (Written Agreement), Standing Orders (Budget Process), Point of Order, Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) (Amendment) Bill, Decision Time, Dog Attacks


Point of Order

Patrick Harvie (Glasgow) (Green)

On a point of order, Presiding Officer.

We have just had a debate on the changes under the new budget process, as well as a proposal for rule changes, as a result of work that has been done by the Finance and Constitution Committee and the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee. I am a member of both committees and I am happy to support the work that has been done. I have no difficulty with the proposed changes to standing orders in the motion to which we are about to be asked to agree.

However, the changes raise an issue in relation to the operation of another rule in standing orders, which is not being changed: rule 8.5.6, which gives you, Presiding Officer, the discretion to decide which of the amendments that have been lodged will be debated in the Parliament.

Members of all committees that have a scrutiny remit in areas in which the Scottish Government will make spending or taxation proposals have a responsibility to be aware of the issue. In future, there will not be a draft budget process, so it is important that the new process provides for scrutiny that is as robust as the approach that we are doing away with.

The guidance that the Finance and Constitution Committee has given to other committees draws attention to the fact that alternative revenue and spending proposals can be lodged through reasoned amendments to the Scottish Government motion on the general principles of the budget bill. The Government will still be in a position to amend the budget, but committees will have the opportunity to make proposals, through reasoned amendments, in the stage 1 debate.

Presiding Officer, given that it is not possible to address the issue explicitly in standing orders, it is important that we ask you to confirm that, when committees have agreed a reasoned amendment, it will always be your intention that the amendment will be debated in the chamber, and to confirm that the Parliamentary Bureau will be asked to allocate enough time to ensure that that happens.

We have a dozen committees that scrutinise spending aspects of the Scottish Government’s work, and we might have even more such committees if functions that currently operate at European Union level are operated from this Parliament. In the stage 1 debate, adequate time needs to be allowed for all reasoned amendments to be debated and put to the vote. Will you confirm that that will be your intention in the operation of the new process?

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

I thank Mr Harvie for notice of his point of order, and say that I recognise the important point that he raises.

While I—or, indeed, any Presiding Officer—would need to consider the terms of any such amendment that might be submitted, I can assure Mr Harvie that I am sympathetic to the point that has been raised. I see it as being part of my role—as I hope that any future Presiding Officer would also do—to ensure that all members have the opportunity of discussing issues that they regard as being of political importance. It is also the case that any reasoned amendment would have had to secure the cross-party support of a committee in order to have been adopted by that committee, which is part of the guidance that all Presiding Officers take into account when selecting amendments.

I will certainly bear Mr Harvie’s comments in mind when considering selection of any reasoned amendment that is submitted on behalf of a committee. As regards the time that is allocated for debate, I support his point that sufficient time would need to be made available for that to take place, which would be something for the Parliamentary Bureau to bear in mind.